My day, organised by Pevensey Bay District Councillor, Cllr Lin Clark, begins with a visit to the team who run Pevensey Bay Country Market, a co-operative enterprise selling local produce. The market offers for sale homemade gifts, crafts, garden produce, fresh meat, cheeses, vegetables, eggs, homemade cakes and much more. Lin and I have a coffee whilst discussing the issues of the day with the local Women's Institute (who, having just debated the issues in Parliament with me, arrange a tour and meeting with me in Parliament to continue the conversation). The market is held at St Wilfrid's Church every Friday morning from 10.15am to 11.30am. Do drop in if you can.
Lin and I then head over to to the Information Centre, situated in the Bay car park, to see how the area is selling itself to visitors. In the office, at the back of the centre, we meet the amazing volunteers who use their own vehicles to provide transport for local residents who have difficulty in accessing medical related services. They explain to Lin and I that they are short of drivers so we are keen to help with recruitment. Fuel costs are paid. If you would like to be a volunteer driver or help out in the office please contact me or the Pevensey Bay Information Centre on 01323 766230.
Next, Lin and I visit some local shops which gives me the chance to plug my EU debates which were scheduled for the following week. Shopkeepers are very kind and agree to display posters on their windows and flyers by the till. Lin and I then head off to the newly restored Pevensey Castle Cottage Tea Rooms. This beautiful cottage has been closed for a while but owners Julie and Andy Watts have given it a new lease of life and, as we can attest, deliver a great lunch. After speaking about policing with Andy, who still works for the Met Police, we then depart for Pevensey Court House Museum and Gaol. Many people forget that the Norman invaders landed at Pevensey. The team at the museum, with their expertise, enthusiasm and exhibits are on hand to talk us through the journey which William made before conquering our isles at Battle. The museum now has an extension at ground level, having discovered more of the historic gaol as they redeveloped.
We wish the team goodbye, as tourists from further afield take our place, and head across the road to the beautiful Priory Court Hotel to meet representatives of the Pevensey Town Trust and local Parish Councils to discuss local issues. We touch on roads, rail, and the latest stage of the reopening of Pevensey Bay’s library. When the library was scheduled to close, we all got together to plan for a community hub to take it over and expand the offer. The bid has been accepted and we are all really excited about the project which the community volunteers have put together. Lin, as the local District Councillor, has been part of this team. This is a good example of what a great local District Councillor can do; not just fighting to retail local services, but working with some special people in the community to help reinvent it in another form. The Parish Council and Town Trust also deserve great credit for backing the library project, and the team, behind the scenes and providing financial support. I hope that other residents in the area will throw their weight behind this venture and make the new library a community success.
Our final visit for the day is to the Pevensey and Westham Forest Garden. Andrew Durling, who has pioneered this special community place, may have been a Parliamentary Candidate for the Green Party but we share a passion for bringing nature alive for others to enjoy. The Forest Garden team took a piece of scrubland from Southern Water and, with the backing of Wealden District Council, they have turned it into a haven for nature and a chance for residents to grow crops, help nature thrive and enjoy the best in life. It is the allotment for our modern times. As a keen beekeeper, I check out the hives. The gardeners and conservationists then join Lin and I for a toast, to their continued success, using their own pressed apple juice.
As I leave with Lin, I say farewell to my work experience student, Tess, who has spent the week with me to gain a better understanding of what an MP does. I have hosted many a work experience student in my last three years. Having got my awakening from work experience at the age of 15 years, I am keen to wish Tess, a constituent now studying in Bath, well for the rest of her University days and, perhaps, a future in politics to come.
My thanks to Lin, for organising such a great day and showing herself to be at the heart of some great community projects.
As this day showed me, residents are passionate about their community and are willing to take matters in their own hands to deliver for those who need their help. I am all the better for experiencing the passion, service and hospitality which this beautiful coastal part of the constituency is delivering.